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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Pah! Who needs water?

Note to self: A good host will always ensure the guest is well taken care of. In this case, Ken Rockburn presents Barry Callaghan with a small token of appreciation of his visit to Ottawa. Nice guy, that Rockburn is. See photo below.

Callaghan, afterall, is not a bad guy either. He signed a copy of his Black Queen Stories, and a first edition of A Broken Journey, which was previously signed by Morley and Barry's older brother, Michael, whose name appears on the dedication page. A trifecta of signatures that would be the envy of any serious book collector. After this initial brief meeting and chat at the end of the reading, he invited me out to breakfast with his wife the following morning. Nearly soiling myself with excitement, I accepted. The next morning promptly at 10am I took them to Ottawa's friendliest eatery, Elgin Street Diner, where he and Claire were very impressed with the quality and quantity of food and super service.

In an attempt not to end our day together so early, I suggested to Barry if he would like to see our local race track. Pure cliché, I know, but it had to be done. Barry readily agreed. We left Claire at her sister's for the day, and he and I headed down to the Rideau Carleton Raceway and Slots and chatted most of the afternoon about his dad, books, and, of course, horse racing.

I could take a cue from the late Hunter S. Thompson and do some gonzo journalism in this blog piece and insert more of myself into the story. Like tell you about how Barry and I, in a bourbon-flavoured cigar haze, pinched the waitress's butt, got chased out of the off-track betting lounge while debating the merits of which nag to bet on at the Aqueduct Races, or whether Tokyo's Fuchu track had the best odds that evening, and how I eventually out-maneuvered the local cops as we sped through their failed speed trap on Albion Road with Barry cursing out the window. Alas, the truth always eludes us when we seek it. I will concede to Dr. Gonzo when he once said, "I have a theory that the truth is never told during the nine-to-five hours."

Barry spent the last sober hours of his Ottawa visit at the National Gallery of Canada with Claire, where I dropped them off, checking out The Sixties in Canada exhibit. Needless to say, I was amazed to be in his presence. A highlight, for sure, for any fan of Callaghan, junior or senior.

Callaghan's latest book is Raise You Five: Essays 1964-2004 Volume One. Barry Callaghan lives in Toronto with the beautiful artist Claire Weissman Wilks.

Okay, you got me. Barry Callaghan and I may not have been chased by the cops on Albion Road, but he was in my kitchen calling his wife at the hotel letting her know that he had not, in fact, been kidnapped and held for ransom.

Barry Callaghan will next be touring his book Monday, May 09, 2005 at the HART HOUSE MUSIC ROOM, 7 HART HOUSE CIRCLE (2ND FLOOR), 7:30PM which is a FREE event.

Poet and award-winning journalist BARRY CALLAGHAN - winner of over a dozen
National Magazine awards and the Pushcart Prize, and acclaimed author of
Barrelhouse Kings - reading and discussing his new collection RAISE YOU FIVE:
ESSAYS 1964-2004, VOLUME ONE; award-winning political and cultural theorist MARK KINGWELL - professor of philosophy at U of T and bestselling author of The World We Want and Better Living - reading and discussing his new collection NOTHING FOR GRANTED: TALES OF WAR, PHILOSOPHY, AND WHY THE RIGHT WAS MOSTLY WRONG, SELECTED WRITINGS 2000-2003; and Maclean's columnist PATRICIA PEARSON - former columnist for the National Post, frequent contributor to USA Today, and author of Playing House and Believe Me - reading and discussing her new collection AREA WOMAN BLOWS A GASKET: TALES FROM THE DOMESTIC FRONTIER.


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